B00M [Abia]: “We Will Not Hand Over Power To Old Bende In 2023” – Emelogu, President, Oha-Ukwa Ngwa Congress
Suleiman Anyalewechi – Aba
Barrister Chinenye .C. Emelogu is the national President, Oha-Ukwa Ngwa Congress, a socio-Cultural organization of Ngwa People.
In August, 1999, the Pan Ngwa group came into being to defend one of its own Enyinnaya Aabribe, amidst his political rancor, with his then boss former Governor Orji Kalu. Abaribe, who was then Deputy to Orji Kalu, was almost humiliated out of office, but for what Emelogu described as the concerted efforts of the Oha-Ukwa congress. In this interview with All Facts Newspaper, Barrister Emelogu spoke on the rift between Abaribe and former Governor Kalu, the Abia Charter of Equity, power shift to Old Bende and other Issues excerpt.
What are the aims and objectives of Oha-Ukwa Ngwa congress?
Oha-Ukwa Ngwa congress came into existence in 1999, almost immediately after the general elections that heralded the return of democracy in the country. You remember, during that election in Abia state, Orji Uzor kalu contested and won the elections as governor of Abia state, with now Senator Enyinaya Abaribe from Ngwa land as his deputy. But immediately after they were sworn in, there was a big rancor between Orji Uzor Kalu and Abaribe, with Orji leveling serious allegations against Abaribe. When we investigated, we discovered that Abaribe was simply being persecuted by Orji Kalu and we also found out that most of the allegations leveled against Abaribe by Orji Kalu were born out of malice and not based on verifiable facts. So based on the development, a group of youths who felt that Abaribe their Kinsman was being persecuted unjustly came together to say “enough was enough” to the harassment and persecution of not only Abaribe but the entire Ngwa people. That feeling actually gave birth to what you today call the Oha-Ukwa Ngwa congress. In fact, the kind of treatment Orji Kalu melted out to Abaribe was perceived as a slap on the entire Ngwa people and we decided to come together to defend the integrity and interest of Ngwa people. I was one of the people that came together then to say “enough is enough” to the persecution and marginalization of the Ngwa people by their brothers and sisters of the old Bende region. Let me tell you, the main reason why Orji Kalu was uncomfortable with Abaribe, then was that he perceived Abaribe as being too intelligent and brilliant to be his deputy. So he became desperate to get rid of him. At formation, the main aim of Oha-Uka Ngwa was the emancipation of the people of Ngwa from marginalization by the old Bende region of the state. It was Oha-Ukwa that actually frustrated all the impeachment moves made by Orji Kalu against Abaribe then and at a point we had to advise Abaribe to resign from the government.
Today, do you feel fulfilled that the objectives of forming Oha-Ukwa Ngwa have been realized ?
You know before Oha-Ukwa congress came on board, our people were simply content with whatever they were doing and/or whatever they had. Those who were farmers, traders and civil servants were simply okay with what they were doing. Our people, the Ngwa people were not interested in politics and all the perks and pains it brings. But the incident between Abaribe and Orji Kalu actually aroused the political consciousness of our people. They began to ask questions such as “What is in this politics of a thing that makes Orji Kalu to be behaving the way he is behaving.” Mind you Orji Kalu did not stop at the point of harassing and persecuting his deputy Abaribe, he was also making so many disparaging remarks about the Ngwa people. He Orji Kalu, called Ngwa people so many unprintable names, a development which actually did not go down well with so many Ukwa Ngwa youths and elders. In fact, information has it that at the heat of his disagreement with Abaribe, Orji Kalu was quoted to have said that, instead he will hand over Abia State governorship to an Ngwa man, he would rather hand over to his daughter, who was then a toddler. Yes, it got to that extent. So it was during that incident that the people of Ngwa land irrespective of political affiliation for the first time came together to fight against what was perceived as a deliberate marginalizing of the Ngwa people. The Ngwa people were awakened from their otherwise political slumber and they said “Okay, we are going to fight for our political right.” Abaribe thus, became a symbol of the struggle for the political emancipation of the people of Ukwa Ngwa land. In fact, in 2007, Abaribe contested for the governorship of the state on the platform of the All Nigerian peoples party ANPP. Although he Abaribe was rigged out, he nonetheless remains the symbol of the struggle for the political freedom of our people. If not for the rancor, between him, Abaribe and Orji Kalu, our people would have still been not only in political slumber, but also in bondage.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu today stands out as the greatest beneficiary of your struggle for the political emancipation of your people, so to say. Do you think his administration has so far served to further the aspiration and interest of your people-Ukwa Ngwa?
I will say yes, with all sense of responsibility. His administration has benefited not only the Ukwa-Ngwa people, but all Abians and indeed Nigerians. This is because his modest achievements in Aba have improved tremendously commercial activities in Aba. And as you know almost all Nigerians are either living and or coming to Aba to do our business or the other. Before Okezie Ikpeazu came in, Abia State was experiencing financial difficulties owing to one reason or the other. But in the midst of the limited resources available to him, the governor has been able to register modest achievements especially in the area of infrastructural development, which in turn has bolstered economic activities. In fact, before Ikpeazu came on board, all the roads in Aba were dilapidated and in very bad shape. This formed the main reason, why during his electioneering campaign, the people of Aba didn’t want him ostensibly because of where he was coming form. Their thinking was that, the way it was from the beginning, it was going to be like that during Ikpeazu, owning to like I said before where he was coming from. But today, the narrative is different, with almost all the major roads not only in Aba, but the entire state in good condition. And Okezie Ikpeazu has been able to do this not minding the financial difficulties the state is passing though.
If it were during the time of past administrations, especially during the Orji Kalu era, when money was coming into the coffers of the state from all angles, by now Abia State would have been a much more comfortable place for people to live in. But, all the same, to God be the Glory, that within the limit of the resources available to him, Ikpeazu has succeeded in silencing his critics, who initially never believed in him. So to that extent, I am proud of him, the Oha-Ukwa Ngwa is proud of him, and as far as I know, the Majority of Abians are appreciative of his modest achievements so far.
Your struggle for political emancipation was aided by the Abia charter of Equity, which demands that power should rotate among all the ethnic blocks, in the state. But today, there is this insinuation that is making the round that the Ukwa-Ngwa are set to dump the charter. How will you respond to this fear?
The truth is that, the Abia charter of Equity was not properly implemented, in line with its original conception. The Abia charter of Equity stipulates that power will rotate between the two old regions that make up the present day Abia State- (Old Bende and Old Aba regions). Now the implementation of Abia charter of Equity began in 1999 with the election of Orji Kalu as Governor. Orji Kalu after eight years in office was supposed to transfer power to the old Aba region, since himself is from the old Bende region. But instead, he chose to keep power in the old Bende specifically in Umuahia, for whatever reason. He (Orji Kalu) handed over to Chief T.A. Orji who governed for another eight years making it a total of sixteen years for old Bende region. After eight years, I will say T.A Orji “Magnanimously’ transferred power to the old Aba region. Now, by 2023 by the grace of God, Ikpeazu would have completed eight years in office. The question now is “is it fair to transfer power to the old Bende which has already governed for sixteen years? I believe strongly that the fair and just thing to do is to transfer power to Ukwa-Ngwa section in Abia State central –Isiala Ngwa South, and North Osisioma so that they can test the power for another eight years after which we can also “Magnanimously’ consider transferring power to the old Bende. But to ask us to transfer power to the old Bende after just eight years in the old Aba region is not fair. Anybody or any group of persons who are thinking along this line, that power should return to the Bende in 2023 is being economical with the truth, and also not being fair to Ukwa-Ngwa Nation. If by virtue of Abia charter of Equity our brothers from the old Bende have tested power for sixteen years what stops Ukwa Ngwa from also testing power for sixteen years. like I said earlier, it is only after sixteen years that we the Ukwa-Ngwa can graciously consider transferring power to the old Bende.
But, there is this argument that Abia Charter of Equity is meant to operate on the basis of Senatorial Zone, and that after Abia South Senatorial Zone, it will be the turn of Abia North?
The senatorial arrangement was not the original concept of the Abia charter of Equity. In fact, it was the people’s Democratic Party (PDP), under the National Chairmanship of Late Chief Tony Aneni, that came up with the idea of using Senatorial zones in power sharing. So I can tell you that the Senatorial arrangement was not part and parcel of Abia charter. The issue of Senatorial arrangement started following the disagreement between Orji Kalu and then President Olusegun Obasanjo. When Obasanjo and the PDP discovered that Orji Kalu was fronting for Chief T.A Orji to succeed him, they decided to zone the party ticket to Abia central, since T.A Orji is from Abia central and the person they had in mind was the late Dr. Chima Nwafor from the Ukwa-Ngwa axis of Abia central. But when he died mysteriously, the PDP and Obasanjo decided to compensate their longtime friend, Chief Onyema Ugochukwu from Umuahia, since they were aware from the beginning that Orji Kalu was fronting for T.A Orji from the same Umuahia as his Successor. That was what happened, as far as the issue of Senatorial arrangement is concerned. The Senatorial arrangement was and is still not part of Abia charter of Equity. The Abia charter of equity provided clearly that power will be shared between the Old Bende and Old Aba regions. And since the old Bende has been there for sixteen years, the old Aba region has to be there for sixteen years also. Common sense and equity demand so. Don’t forget even in 2015, the old Bende wanted to collect the governorship position through the backdoor, but God did not allow it. Again, attempt was made on the life of Governor Ikpeazu by some political forces, so as to return power to the old Bende. Again, God did not allow it and since God didn’t allow their plans to come to fruition, we the Ukwa-Ngwa people in the spirit of Abia charter of Equity will governor for sixteen years, after which we will return power to the old Bende.
Don’t you think that your position is likely elicit strong reaction from the old Bende region especially the Abia North which is widely tipped to produce the next Governor of Abia State ?
That is for those who do not believe in Equity Justice and fairness. Those who are driven by a sense of justice and equality will surely appreciate my position and the position of Ukwa-Ngwa people. Orji Kalu is from Igbere-old Bende, and T.A Orji from Umuahia, old Bende. And they were there for sixteen years. So what is the furore about the old Aba region holding power for sixteen years? There is nothing wrong and unjust for us to equally hold unto power for sixteen years. After that, like I said earlier, we may graciously and magnanimously consider shifting power to old Bende. We can equally decide to hold on to it depending on the situation on the ground. If we consider all that they – the old Bende have been doing to us since the creation of Abia, we may decide to hold on to the power. That is why; I keep on using the word “magnanimous”.
Do you have the political wherewithal to keep power in old Aba region, if you want, as you keep on saying?
One hundred percent (laughter). Look you know in Abia state, the Ukwa-Ngwa is in the majority. We don’t want to talk about what we will do to retain power if we want to. But we don’t want to flaunt this strength, because, we believe in equality and justice. They should allow us to complete sixteen years and after that, we will willingly return power to them.
Your position, again appears contrary to the belief in many political circles that there are plans to promote the aspiration of an Umuahia born politician after Ikpeazu must have finished his tenure?
Again (laughter). That one is a mere political speculation. As far as we are concerned, that is a mere rumour and speculation which is allowed in politics. It is possible that somebody, may have entered into an agreement with somebody at a particular point in time to the effect that, so and so thing should be done in future. And it is also possible that the person must have said ok don’t worry it will be done, may be because at that material time he was somehow helpless. The person having entered into that agreement may not have done so on behalf of the majority of the people. Look you cannot go and enter into an agreement, and you did not consult me and you expect that agreement and or understanding to be respected by me. The situation is like, maybe my father going out and coming back with a woman and comes to tell me “look this is your wife whether you like it or not.” How do you expect me to accept that woman as truly my wife” it is not possible. Like I said earlier on it is possible as someone may have been helpless at a particular situation possibly at gum point at and enters into an understanding or agreement. I am just speculating. If there is such an agreement, the signatory to that agreement, is on his or her own because he or she did not consult the people and as such whatever agreement or understanding entered into is not binding on the majority of the people. Anyway, we have not been told that something like that exists. Until we are told we will wait. But if we are eventually informed about the existence of such understanding, the people will converge and deliberate on it and take their decision. If at the end of the day, the majority says yes, we will go by the agreement, but if they say no, there is nothing anybody can do about it. However let me leave the matter, until we get to the bridge, we will know how to cross it.
In 1999 you lead the struggle for the political emancipation of your Ukwa-Ngwa people, which climaxed with the election of a governor of Ngwa extraction in Abia. To that extent you are fulfilled. What are your plans to replicate same at the national level for the Igbo’s, so that a Nigerian President of Igbo extraction can be elected come 2023?
Let me start by saying that I am not yet fulfilled in my struggle for the political emancipation of Ndi Ngwa; I will feel fulfilled only when Ukwa Ngwa have government Abia for sixteen years like their old Bende brothers. Having said that, let me add that everybody in this country today knows that the Igbo’s are being marginalized on of all fronts since the end of the civil war. It is an open secret that Igbo’s have always been treated as conquered people. If you talk they will say kill him, but I will continue to talk because I believe that nobody can kill me, unless the day my God will say it is over for me. Nigerian people have not been fair to Ndi-Igbo. That is the truth. The problem is that Nigerians outside the South East do not want Igbo Man as the President, not because they don’t believe in the abilities of an Igbo man. Infact they know that the Igbo man has all it takes to lift Nigeria out of the present difficult situation.
But because of envy they have refused to give the Igbo man the chance despite his inherent abilities to squeeze water out of the stone, despite his abilities to replicate what President Obama did in the United States of America. Obama, whether you like it or not lifted America out of its woes and it happened only when the Americans decided to give a chance to a blackman. I bet you, give an Igbo man the chance today every rubbish you see in Nigeria will vanish in his first two years in office as President. Most Nigerian’s know this and if the Igbo Man spends eight years on the seat, I can assure you that Nigeria will regain her pride of place in the comity of Nations. But the people we share the union called Nigeria with will not want the glory of lifting the country from the doldrums to go to the Igbo man. This attitude towards the Igbo Man is the main root cause of the agitation for self-determination by the Igbo youths. This agitation has in turn brought about the existence of a plethora of Separatist movements in the southeast, and of course you don’t blame those who are agitating for the secession of Igbos from the project call Nigeria. If you are in a marriage and you discover that you are not wanted in that marriage, the best thing for you is to pull out. As far as I am concerned Igbos are being treated like people who are not wanted in a marriage.
The only way to go is for the Igbos to come together irrespective of political affiliation, and speak with one voice and demand that the rest of Nigerians should concede the presidency to Ndi-Igbo in 2023. You know we the Igbo’s have this penchant for stabling ourselves on the back and the rest of Nigerians have been capitalizing on that to sideline Ndi-Igbo from the affairs of the country. But if we can come together and engage other people from the other parts of the country, the Igbos stand a better chance to rest the presidency in 2023.